Roanoke, VA native Aaron Dykstra uses an icon of his hometown for his bicycle company’s namesake and manufacturing paradigm.
Norfolk and Western Railroad’s “J Class ” locomotive No. 611 was a sleek and streamlined steam locomotive built in the N&W’s Roanoke Shops in May 1950 to haul passenger trains at speed over the Blue Ridge Mountains and onto the flatter terrain of Virginia’s Tidewater region.
After the N&W retired its steam locomotives, No. 611 was resurrected by successor company Norfolk Southern in the 1980s to haul special excursion trains as a symbol of the power, speed and elegance of a bygone industrial era.
Dykstra humbly incorporates those same design virtues – aesthetics and aerodynamics – in his custom bicycles that channel No. 611′s grace at speed.
2010 NAHBS Rookie of the Year in Richmond, VA, not far from his home, Dykstra hit another homerun at this year’s show in Austin.
As a second-year exhibitor, Dykstra is allowed to display a full range of bicycles at the show. He said that he was a bit “stressed out and intimidated by displaying my line next to the big boys of the custom bike industry.”
A full-time builder for only three years, Dykstra works out of the basement of what was once the first Harley-Davidson dealership in Virginia. Previously a bicycle mechanic in both New York City and Chicago, Dykstra apprenticed under the careful tutelage of famed Japanese-American framebuilder Koichi Yamaguchi.
Moving back home to Virginia to open up his shop and subsist on the “zero dollars” that a new entrepreneur must endure for a period, Dykstra’s talent and refined craft are already raising eyebrows in the handmade bicycle world.
At this year’s NAHBS, Dykstra brought with him a track bike built from the lightweight and corrosion-proof KVA stainless steel tubing that is taking the custom bike world by storm. A piece of ridable art that brims with innovation, the frame also pays homage to tradition with its vintage Italian Cinelli lugs.
It made enough of an impression on the show jury to win Dykstra the “Best Track Frame” award in Austin.
Heady praise for the affable Dykstra, who was “blown away” by winning a top award two years in a row.
“I’m a little shaky in the knees,” he admitted after being on stage to pick up his award. “I never really expected to meet with this kind of success. I just love what I do.”